Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Do. Or Do Not.

I'm not a natural writer. In fact, putting word to page (or rather, screen), is not only frustrating but frequently unsatisfying as well. I always feel the word I really want it just beyond my brain's ability to formulate exactly what I want to say. However, after numerous encounters with other blogging academics I've been for some time convinced of the value of writing 1) for practise, 2) to establish a (potentially) usable record of ephemeral moments in the classroom, and 3) a somewhat more useful alternative to for those moments in my office when I'm trying to work up the energy to walk out to the car and go home.

I am still sitting in the office. In Halloween costume, actually (and appropriately so, one might consider, given it's the 31st). Yesterday I gave a brief presentation to some faculty on my summer exploits--and it wasn't so much the presentation that sticks in my mind but the introduction that I got from the Dean of Faculty. He commented on my 9 year streak of putting on geologically-related outfits every year. I heard, albeit second-hand, that the topic surfaced again at the faculty coffee hour this morning ("Anyone seen the geology professor this year?"); I myself was frantically trying to finish entering some exam grades at the time. But the shoes pinch, my contact lenses are dry from the excess of makeup, and the jacket of sofa upholstery fabric is starting to chafe...and I wonder if it is all merely a subconscious ploy on my part to ingratiate myself with my colleagues. No student has ever commented on the outfits, nor have I ever seen evidence of any of them understanding anything better as a result of what in some cases are extremely madcap representations of some aspect of geology. (Case in point: last year's "geyser" get-up required an abundant imagination to interpret.) This year I was mistaken for Paul Revere twice and Ben Franklin more times than I can count. No one considered James Hutton at all, although his name appears periodically in class (including on an exam).

Maybe it's just a way to be different--at least most students recognise me by name (Hutton notwithstanding). Most educators I know do what they do because every now and then a student will come up and make a comment that takes them aback. An "aha" moment, if you will, where we finally see that the student also finally sees. A friend of mine in the communications department just wrote a great posting about those moments in her blog this week. Like that time I was a local topographic map and a student went hunting for a relative's home down my left leg (along the river)... then said, "That's so cool."

Since it's now 8:02, and the building has been quiet since 6:30, I doubt that will happen this year. I likely should have gone home an hour ago and taken the shoes off, the contacts out, and put the jacket back into the "Halloween" box (with the vest, pantaloons, and pocket watch). Tomorrow morning the geomorphology class gets to play with the stream table, which is extremely cool. One of them might even think so, too.

And if anyone has any ideas about costumes for next year, let me know.

Addendum: Just read a keenly perceptive essay from the Chronicle that puts a more apt face on the pain of writing..

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